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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Archimedes’ Life

Everything around us can relate to Physics in one way or another. There are many people who have participated and built upon everything we now know about physics. One person in particular that we will be focusing on and learning about is Archimedes. He is the founder of the Archimedes principle, which states that if an object is displaced, it will be buoyed up based upon the weight of the fluid that was displaced. Before we get into that, we will be taking a look at his life and all of his greatest accomplishments. His accomplishments include, but aren’t limited to his discovery of Archimedes’ Principle, Archimedes’ Screw, mathematics, levers, and Infinitesimals.

Archimedes was born in 287 BC in the city of Syracuse and is a great Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor. His dad was a mathematician and astronomer. As Archimedes was a youth, he developed a strong and curious mind, but lucky for him, he also had a knack for problem solving. Archimedes had such a strong love for learning and was always looking to learn more. After he had learned all he could from his teachers in Syracuse, he traveled to Egypt, so he could learn and study in Alexandria. Alexandria was a school that was founded by Alexander the Great, and by the time Archimedes went there to study, it had earned quite the reputation for learning. After he felt he had learned all he could there, he traveled back to his home town of Syracuse where he pursued his life in thought and invention.

One of Archimedes’ most important discoveries is Archimedes’ Principle. This discovery is now able to help us find to volume of an object that has an irregular shape. It is known that King Hiero had received a crown that was supposed to be 100% gold, but this King suspected that there had been a use of silver in too, so he turned to Archimedes for help. For Archimedes to determine this, he had to come up with an idea of how to do so. He came up with the idea of the fluid that is displaced, must be proportional to the submerged object, which is exactly how he found the answer to King Hiero’s question. Rumor has it that when Archimedes had discovered this, he ran down the streets naked, yelling “Eureka!” with excitement.

Archimedes also made the discovery of the screw. Again, King Hiero had a ship. However, it wasn’t just any ship, it could hold up to 600 people, it had a gym, there was a temple on it, and it also had a garden. The only problem was that the rain water wouldn’t drain out. So, King Hiero turned to Archimedes for help. This is where he invented the screw, this isn’t a screw like we are used to seeing. This screw “This device is rather like a corkscrew within an empty tube. When the screw turns, water is pulled up the tube, so the screw can pull water up from a river, lake, or well.” (Home, 2014). With the invention of his screw, he was able to solve the king’s problem, and change the course of history. His invention is still used today for irrigation purposes and helping with farming purposes like moving grain and other materials.

Archimedes made some great contributions to mathematics. According to Crirstian Violatti (2013) he proved theories that contribute to our knowledge on the area of solids, and we are no longer help back by their curves and surfaces. He was able to analyses problems in statics and hydrostatics at the geometrical standpoint. Archimedes also played a part in counting, in fact, he was able to emphasize it and its importance with his invention of the Sand Reckoner. Another great thing that he did was the measurement of a circle, he was able to approximate the values of pi. Although his discoveries were not as precise as they are now, he was able to set upper and lower limits on the number for pi. He figured out that the circumference of a circle is the ratio to its diameter. When he discovered that, he then made it possible to find volumes of objects that had curved lines such as pyramids, cones, circles, and spheres. From there, he only discovered more, he was able to determine how to find the volume of the sphere with the calculation 2 pi times the radius (half of the diameter of the circle).

Archimedes was such a great mathematician, that he wrote a book The Method where he revealed how he did his math. the book revealed all his discoveries for math. After writing it he sent it to Eratosthenes to be logged in the Library of Alexandria. Upon sending it he wrote, “I presume there will be some current as well as future generations who can use The Method to find theorems which we have not discovered.” (Home, 2014). However, this book was lost, and people knew his calculations were right, but they just couldn’t figure out how he made them. They couldn’t figure out how he got his answers, his formulas, they did not know the work in order to solve them. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the book was found in Turkey and they were able to make the connections through his work to understand how he came to those conclusions.

We know, but only through summaries that Archimedes was able to formulate the Law of Lever and Balance. He was able to do it so accurately that no one dared to or even could make a contribution to his finding until the 16th century CE. The lever is what we know associate with the teeter totter. With a lever you are able to lift heavy objects off the ground with less force than lifting and moving it by yourself. He was also able to discover the benefits of the pulley and lifting things with a large weight. Archimedes was so amazed with these discoveries that King Hieron challenged him. Her challenge was to have her move a vessel using levers and pullies. So, by her sitting on one end of a mechanism she was able to move a fully loaded vessel out of water, and then pace it on the land, mind you, that this was a task that one hundred men could barely do.

Under the direction of King Hiero II, Archimedes was set to building walls for Syracuse for their defense system in anticipation of wars. When the King died, they were attacked from the land and the sea. However, Archimedes was able to use his engineering skills and develop catapults that hurled stones far distances and put holes in the city wall so that the bowmen could shoot their arrows through and defend themselves. He was also able to help them to develop a system that would drop heavy weights on the ships as they would approach. These heavy weights were able to cause such great destruction that the attackers, the Romans, abandoned their attack on Syracuse, and come up with a new idea to capture them. They decided that the best way to capture Syracuse was to start a siege and essentially starve the city until they surrendered.

It took nearly two years for the Romans to prevail and take over the city. After the takeover, Marcellus, one of the Romans, had a great admiration towards Archimedes so he sent for him. When the solider arrived to take Archimedes to Marcellus, he was unaware the Romans had stormed the city, and he was too involved in one of his mathematical problems to stop and go. This caused the soldier to react out of anger and kill the Great Archimedes. The fact that Archimedes was able to die doing what he loved, and what he is known for, was a great honor for him.

Archimedes was able to make all those discoveries in his short 75 years on earth, however his contributions didn’t stop there. People everywhere will continue to learn of all the great things that he has contributed to forever. Archimedes was able to help us learn about the laws of buoyancy. We know how his invention of the screw that is still being used today. He helped us take our first steps in circles, learning of pi and the volumes of circles. Archimedes was able to show others how to use levers and pullies, that in turn, helped to prolong the capturing the surrendering of Syracuse. Archimedes was a great man and holds a great contribution to what we have today.


Hewitt, P. G. (2015). Conceptual physics. Boston: Pearson.

Home. (2014, July 1). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

Project, T. A. (n.d.). The Archimedes Palimpsest. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

Violatti, C. (2013, June 24). Archimedes. Ancient History Encyclopedia.

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Who is Archimedes? Everything You Need to Know. (2017, July 24). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from


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